It’s rare you come across an album that sounds truly unique, but the new LP by Swiss-German ‘post-jazz’ trio Me&Mobi certainly fits that description. While it’s described as an ‘urban’ album by its creators, you won’t find Agglo nestled next to the grime and hip-hop in your local record shop. Instead the word is used in the sense that it seems as dense, lively, sprawling, gritty and complex as a modern (or even future) metropolis.
Even its title seems to sum up the band’s omnidirectional approach. At points the music flickers with warmth and light as if truly ‘aglow’, while at other times the term ‘aggro’ might seem more appropriate. Me&Mobi’s relentless musical invention makes it an album that really rewards being consumed whole, repeatedly.
MusicMap is beyond excited to bring you an exclusive full stream of maybe the most adventurous and engrossing album of 2018 so far, before its official released tomorrow. To celebrate, we spoke to Me&Mobi’s Lisa Hoppe, who plays double bass alongside pianist Philipp Schlotter and drummer Fred Bürki, about snowy obstacles, sci-fi inspiration and Bern’s surprisingly broad music scene…
How did you first meet, and did things ‘click’ musically straight away?
Lisa Hoppe, Me&Mobi: Ha, actually the first meeting of Me&Mobi was fairly unromantic and even awkward. We were all in jazz school in Bern, Switzerland, and ended up in a swing workshop that none of us really enjoyed. But nevertheless, there was a interest for each other – or maybe just a mutual sense of humour – so we decided to meet after school to play some music that we liked. And that’s when it started…
There’s not much out there that sounds like Agglo right now. As a band, do you occasionally force yourself down unconventional routes, or is that just where you naturally end up when playing together?
Strangely enough, it’s rather that we force ourselves to go down more conventional routes. Many of the songs on Agglo are much longer when played live, and we tried to make them a bit more accessible and condensed for the recording. Me&Mobi is definitely an extravagant entity, with all three of us trained in jazz music. Also the instrumentation leads us naturally to uncommon places – I mean, we are a trio with a double bass, though we play loud, electronically enriched post-whatever – that sounds almost like a paradox.
Sometimes I’m wondering whether we’re genius for that, or just simply out of our minds.
Another factor is that the three of us have very different musical backgrounds and bias – and kind of our philosophy became to treat this as an advantage and an asset.
Bern is a relatively small city compared to those namechecked on the album. What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a band based in Bern, and what would you recommend musically-inclined visitors check out there?
What’s always great about small cities is that life is relatively affordable and comfortable, and both are great for getting work done. But it can get a bit repetitive, even boring, and also ‘comfortable’ is not always what we want as artists, right? Bern is for its size though musically pretty diverse, and from hip-hop to polka, electro to jazz, of course classical music, you can find everything when you know where to look. Next to bigger venues like Turnhalle or Reitschule, there are a lot of underground activities and living room concerts going on.
You’re currently in the middle of a European tour, what have been the most memorable moments so far?
There was a heavy snow storm in early March when we were on our way to a gig in France. The motorways were closed and the satnav guided us through weird paths through forest. The storm got worse and worse, there was already about 20cm of snow when the tourbus wouldn’t go further uphill. After a minute it worked and we got over the hill and out of the forest, but there was some praying involved. We arrived with more than two hours delay and due to the storm there was also not much audience present. Despite all these obstacles, it was a really amazing show and even [though] it was only ten people watching, they were burning down the house.
You describe your music as ‘urban’, in the sense that it reflects the complexity and intensity of a city. What specific city/s do you think Agglo most sounds like?
The idea with Agglo is that the descriptions of the cities are not only about the present, but also about potential futures. So we play a lot with “what if” and images from science fiction scenarios in the spirit of Bladerunner, District 9 or Soylent Green. Cities that we actually quote on Agglo are exemplary.
In fact, what drove us to the concept of Agglo was the fascination of the interplay between the city – in form of buildings and structure – and the life taking place inside it – the inhabitants, groups, gangs, classes, animals, plants. We found parallels there to our musical expression, and us combining digital and mechanic sounds with warm, analog ones.
Like what you hear? The album drops tomorrow on Prolog and can be pre-ordered now on Bandcamp.
Interview: Kier Wiater Carnihan